SINGAPORE: The iconic Bukit Timah Market and Food Center are slated for demolition next year. However, only half of the 180 vendors currently operating in the market are expected to relocate to a temporary site opposite the existing market. The remaining vendors, averse to the high rental costs of the temporary venue, are reluctant to relocate.

Despite the capacity of the new site, only 60 cooked food stalls and 30 wet market stalls have opted to make the temporary transition. The higher rental fees, unsubsidised and based on market prices, appear to be a deterrent to the other vendors already grappling with the rising water, gas and electricity prices.

Currently, the rents for stalls within the market are subject to variation. With subsidies from the National Environment Agency (NEA), cooked food stall vendors pay approximately $1,500, while wet market vendors contribute around $300 in rental fees.

The temporary venue introduces a different pricing structure, with rents pegged to market prices. Cooked food stall owners will face an increase to approximately $2,350, while wet market stall vendors will be burdened with a steep rise to $1,000 – a significant jump from their current fees.

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The chairman of the temporary venue told Channel 8 news that while the rent at the temporary site is higher, it still remains “lower than what many other caterers are paying.”

A vendor managing a mutton soup stall expressed reservations about relocating due to the elevated rent. He argued that passing on the increased costs to customers could potentially deter them, impacting his business negatively.

Some vendors are compelled to embrace the temporary arrangement as they feel they have little choice. A 72-year-old fishmonger mentioned the challenges of finding alternative employment at his age, saying he will move to the temporary site to assess the situation before making long-term plans.

The news of the impending demolition has also ignited a vigorous debate among patrons. Regular customers are divided in their sentiments, with some expressing sadness over losing a beloved culinary and community hub.

A 60-year-old customer reminisced about the diverse and delicious food offerings, convenient shopping, and the friendships forged with vendors. She expressed concern that once redeveloped, finding “a place like this” would be challenging.

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Conversely, some diners are optimistic about the redevelopment, anticipating an increase in the value of surrounding real estate.